Mythological Beasts And Spirits: Chimera

The original Chimera is a creature from Greco Roman mythology which has the head of a lion, the head (or body) of a goat, and the tail of a serpent (often represented with a serpent’s head). The earliest reference we have is from the Iliad by Homer. Shown below is an intriguing Etruscan bronze, the Chimera of Arezzo, from the 4th Century, A. D.


Going back even further, there is this Greco Roman mosaic from Palmyra, 3rd Century, A. D. It depicts the battle in which Bellerophon slays the Chimera while riding on Pegasus, the winged horse which he tamed with the help of the goddess, Athena.


As is often the case in mythology, it all started with a woman. Bellerophon resists the efforts of Sthenoboea, the wife of King Proteus, to seduce him. Angry at being jilted, she levels accusations against him. This is reminiscent of the tale of Joseph resisting the efforts of Potiphar’s wife to seduce him. The latter is found in the book of Genesis from the Old Testament and is, incidentally, the older account.

Joseph and Potiphar's Wife by Miklos Mihalovits.
Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife by Miklos Mihalovits.

Anyway,  King Iobates of Lycia, the father of Sthenoboea, assigns Bellerophon a number of heroic tasks, including the slaying of the Chimera. Athena gives our hero a golden bridle which will enable him to mount and ride Pegasus. In this next painting, Athena can be seen standing in the background.

Bellerophon by Alexander Ivanov.
Bellerophon by Alexander Ivanov.

I will end this post with another depiction of the ensuing battle.

Bellerophon and the Chimera by Samuel Moore-Sobel
Bellerophon and the Chimera by Samuel Moore-Sobel


13 thoughts on “Mythological Beasts And Spirits: Chimera”

  1. When I was a child, the Catholic school I attended sometimes forbade me from signing out the book – Pegasus, The Winged Stallion, as retold by Nathaniel Hawthorn. I signed this book out every week, from first to sixth grade-no kidding. I’ve since found this cherished book through diligent research on the Library of Congress’s website. We’re reunited once again. This book might just be my very first real love:)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s a neat story. I think one for me would have to be a paraphrased account of Beowulf wrestling Grendel that I read as a boy. As an adult, I bought a good, scholarly translation of the entire poem. I loved it and have read it three times. Each time I got more out of it. It’s an excellent work of poetry.

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  2. Did you ever hear the theory that some of the mythological beasts were the result of the ancients coming upon dinosaur, mammoth and mastodon fossils and then imagining the appearance of the creature that left such strange, colossal, enigmatic remains?

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    1. Yes, but in connection with dragons and dinosaurs. Concerning these others, chimeric forms appear in Greco Roman mythology as well as the Bible. That brings up the additional theory that mankind has had spiritual experiences or visitations in the past and that some of these renderings are distorted versions produced after generations of unfamiliarity. I have also heard that the creatures in the Biblical accounts had symbolic significance. This is an interesting topic.


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